06 May 2012

Intermediate Positions

In preparation for my post on the kinaesthetic value of ITF patterns, I realised that there is something else I need to cover first, namely ITF Taekwon-Do's intermediate positions / chamber positions that exist in the fundamental movements. The  intermediate positions / chamber positions are of utmost importance in ITF Taekwon-Do as they are actually the default positions (i.e. the position from which one starts a technique) in ITF Taekwon-Do. However, because they are most often seen at intermediate intervals, in other words between the end positions of techniques, they are often missed by some practitioners, while non-ITF initiates may not even realise their existence and the emphasis that they receive in good ITF dojang.

These positions are usually referred to as intermediate positions because they exist intermediately between the impact points of techniques.

Impact Points and Final Positions

Walking Stance Front Fore Fist
Middle Obverse Punch
Heavy emphasis is placed on the “final positions” of techniques—the impact points, i.e. those points of a technique's motion when the attacking or blocking tool engages the target [1]. These impact points, or final positions, are usually what defines a technique. They are usually what we see pictures of in Taekwon-Do books, and are the names that describe a technique. So when I say “Walking Stance Front Fore Fist Middle Obverse Punch,” I'm literally describing the final position of a motion: I'm describing the impact point where I hit an opponent at a middle height with the front of my fore fist of my obverse (leading) arm, from a walking stance. What this description fails to do is explain where I came from (what my previous position was) and how I got to the final position (what the intermediate motions involved). While the description locates the final position, it lacks to locate the beginning position.

Where do techniques end? Where do techniques begin?

Most people are inclined to think that the beginning position of one technique is merely the final position of the previous technique. In a manner of speaking this is true, because techniques are done sequentially, one following (and flowing into) the other. However, the end position of the previous technique is not authentically the start of the new technique, nor is the end position authentically the end of the previous technique.

Let me quickly explain what I mean by this. What we usually consider as the “end position” is not really the end position. Take for instance these quotes from the ITF Encyclopaedia: “Relax the muscles immediately after the fist has reached it's target” and “The moment the attacking tool reaches the target, pull it back to allow it to be ready for the next action while preventing a grab by the opponent.” (Vol. 3, p. 29 & 17). From this it is clear that the end position of a technique is not the moment of impact with the opponent, but actually the relaxation of the muscles and the pulling back of the limbs into a chambered position, ready for the next technique.

This relaxed chamber is the actual, authentic end position, it also becomes the authentic starting position for the next technique. This position is rightly called an intermediate position because it is the position directly after one technique's goal is reached (hitting the target) and before the next technique commences, but it is also rightly referred to as a chamber position because it is the default position from where the next technique is launched. It is never really referred to as the “start position”—even though this would be an appropriate description—in part because ITF Taekwon-Do is at its most advanced level not performed in steps, in singular techniques. Instead, at its advanced level ITF Taekwon-Do is a flow of elastic motions where a clear distinction between one technique and another is hard to identify.

In this sense the ITF Taekwon-Do patterns that plot singular techniques, conveniently stopping at the so-called end-position of each technique, should not be viewed as “advanced” Taekwon-Do. The patterns are a training tool that teaches specific skills; they are not a depiction of Taekwon-Do when performed at its highest, unfettered, combat level. The patterns are not actual mock fights. Yet, paradoxically, a mastery of the patterns often reveal a practitioners ability in higher level Taekwon-Do.

The patterns of ITF Taekwon-Do's mother art Taekkyeon [2] are probably much more representative of the type of unfettered flow I'm talking about. Looking at the fluid Taekkyeon pattern demonstration at the beginning of the video below, notice how there are hardly any “frozen” moments of impact, similar to the forms in Tai-Chi Chuan where there are no Karatesque end-position “stops”.

That these so-called end-positions that we see in the ITF patterns and other basic training should not be considered the actual final position of a technique we see in another practise that ITF Taekwon-Do is famous for—power breaking.

Power breaking is an actual separate category in ITF Taekwon-Do tournaments. (I don't know of any other martial art where power breaking is one of the main competition categories. Most martial arts compete only in sparring and forms.) In power breaking competitions there is a curious rule: the competitor has to demonstrate a guarding posture both before and after the break. If the guarding posture is not assumed both before and after the break, the competitor is disqualified! One would think that the actual breaking of the boards are all that matters, yet this rule brings home a very important lesson: the impact point—hitting and breaking the target—is not the end of the overall technique in ITF Taekwon-Do. These guarding postures before and after the breaking technique act as the intermediate positions, the default positions.

Examples of Two Intermediate Positions

So let's look at examples of intermediate or chamber positions. Up until now I have used the terms “intermediate position” and “chamber position” interchangeably, although there are actually differences between the two. The intermediate position is much better understood as the “relaxed ready” position, while the chamber position is the “charged ready” position. The “relaxed ready” position has almost no tension in the muscles and the centre of gravity is relatively low. On the other hand the chamber position often has the muscles “charged” with potential energy (the muscles are somehow comfortably pulled or compressed so as to take advantage of their elastic potential), and the centre of gravity is often slightly raised to charge it with extra potential energy, which is to be converted into kinetic energy. The kinetic energy is released when the body weight free falls into the technique, towards the impact point.  “Intermediate position” and “chamber position”  are therefore not synonymous, although they are often used interchangeably as they usually occur so closely together. For convenience sake, I will henceforth focus on the intermediate position.

Let's look at the pattern Chon-Ji. We will focus on the first two movements which can be seen in the YouTube video featuring Jaroslaw Suska, at 0:04-0:08. The series of frames below shows myself performing these first two movements.

The first two steps in the pattern Chon-Ji,
depicted in seven frames. 
There are two intermediate positions—or “relaxed ready positions”—within the first two steps of the pattern Chon-Ji. Movement #1 in Chon-Ji Teul turns the body 180 degrees left, into a Left Walking Stance Low Outer Forearm Outward Block; Movement #2 is a forward step into a Right Walking Stance Obverse Front Fore Fist (Middle) Punch. In the series of seven frames above we see the “end-position” of Movement #1 at Frame #4 and the “end-position” of Movement #2 in the last frame, Frame #7. We find the intermediate positions at Frames #2 and #5.

(These were photos taken with my mobile phone. I'm moving too fast for Frames #3 and #6 to be taken properly with my mobile phone camera. I tried to pose in those positions but since they are actual moments of accelerated rise and “free fall” such posing misrepresents the body positioning too much—for one, frozen posed pictures cannot show the accelerated forward momentum of the centre of gravity. It is worthy to note, however, that the “charged” chambered positions are to be found somewhere in the early parts of these blacked-out frames.)

Forwards Offensive (Relaxed Ready) Intermediate Position

The first intermediate position, as shown in Frame #2 is a little controversial, so I'd like us to first look at the second intermediate position, seen in Frame #5, first.

Frame #5: Forwards Offensive Relaxed Ready
Intermediate Position
From our previous technique (Low Forearm Block, Frame #4), we step forward into a walking stance punch. The ITF Encyclopaedia dictates that we should relax “the muscles immediately after the fist has reached it's target” and “pull it back.” This coincides with the first “relax” part of the full sine wave motion which include three phases: relax—rise—fall. Relaxing the arms means that the obverse punching arm is relaxed backward, while the shoulder and back muscles that keep the other fist on the hip is relaxed so that the rear hand is brought forward into a comfortable relaxed position. The hands form a comfortable “sparring guard” position in front of the body. Not only do the arms relax into a comfortable “relaxed ready” position, but also the legs follow suite. The forward knee relaxes somewhat causing a forward shift in the body, while the unnaturally straightened rear leg is relaxed and allowed to comfortably shift forward, bringing the centre of gravity forward. This is the typical forwards offensive (relaxed ready) intermediate position.

A beautiful photograph of
Mohammad Ali posing in a slightly
exaggerated Boxer's Stance while sub-
merged under water.
(Image Source
This position can be compared to the boxer's pose or the Jeet Kune Do stance, the advancing Muay Thai stance, and even the Xingyi posture when the straight strike has landed and the rear foot is slided in.

The advancing Muay Thai stance.
(Image Source)

In this part of the pattern Chon-Ji, the intermediate position is merely a pass through point, but in actual application this is the default position, i.e. authentic starting position, for a forward stepping walking stance punch. From this position the practitioner can merely continue the forward momentum and step into a forward stepping punch, or the practitioner can use the bent rear leg to thrust himself forward into a type of lunging punch. This position also allows the practitioner to push back with the front leg if a sudden retreat is required.

Defensive (Relaxed Ready) Intermediate Position

Now for the other intermediate position we see in Frame #2. I mentioned that it is controversial, not because this intermediate position is controversial in itself, it is not; rather, in this particular position in Chon-Ji it is not used by all instructors. Many instructors teach that one ought to fall directly from the Parallel Ready Stance (Frame #1) into the block (Frame #3) in a type of “drop step”. Strategically this makes sense as it is quicker. However, I practise the motion with the intermediate position (Frame #2) because I believe practising to move through the intermediate positions is one of the purposes of pattern training in ITF Taekwon-Do.

Frame #2: Defensive Intermediate Position
So let's look at the intermediate position in Frame #2. From the Parallel Ready Stance the weight is shifted to the right leg, which is also weighted (“rooted”) into a relaxed bend of the knee; simultaneously the hips are slightly turned towards the attacker and the arms are brought up into a defensive guard. This is the typical defensive (relaxed ready) intermediate position. Moving into this position coincides with the initial relax-phase of the full sine wave motion. The defensive relaxed intermediate position is the beginning position for many defensive (blocking) techniques in ITF Taekwon-Do. In this case, as a defensive pose the body's centre is shifted away from the attacker—this is not always the case, but is typical for defensive poses.

One position in Xingyi with the weight
towards the back. (Image Source)
This type of body positioning for a  “starting position” with the weight primarily towards the rear leg is also observed in most martial arts, including such styles as Xingyi. Shifting the weight to the back is often used to move one's vital spots further away from the opponent's reach. In ITF Taekwon-Do we may actually do a drop step backwards in a shifting motion, for example the first movement in the pattern Gae-Baek, in which case the position would act as an “ending position”.

The pattern Gae-Bae starts by falling
back into an L-stance X-block. This pose
is not much different from the typical
defensive intermediate position. 
However the typical defensive (relaxed ready) intermediate position need not be done in a retreating manner; there are actually examples of a forward moving defensive intermediate position in Chon-Ji Teul—it occurs, for instance in the intermediate motion towards Movement #3 in Chon-Ji Teul, as you turn around 180 degrees towards an opponent behind you.

Intermediate Position Aspects

I've only shown two examples of intermediate positions here. The elementary pattern Chon-Ji actually contains more intermediate positions. One, for instance, is the backwards offensive (relaxed ready) intermediate position which resembles the defensive relaxed intermediate position in that the weight is shifted more onto the rear leg, but with the hands brought up in a boxing chamber, rather than a defensive cross-guard.

The important thing to remember is that the intermediate positions are not kept for long periods at a time. Often intermediate positions are merely significant nodes on a path through which the practitioner moves as he or she transition from one technique to another. However, the positions are nonetheless the default positions from which most techniques are launched. The “default position” (or “neutral position” as my friend Stuart Anslow calls them) is a point in the motion where one has not over committed and can still change your technique mid-motion.

The intermediate positions are the “rooting” positions in ITF Taekwon-Do. These are the positions where our centre of gravity is preparatively lowered to root our techniques, our bodies are most relaxed, our perceptions most aware, our minds most focussed. Not that any of these things are less important elsewhere on the motion path of our techniques, yet the intermediate position is a moment of re-centring, of coming back to this default pose of internal (mental) and external (physical) balance.

It is futher more important not to miss the fact that the default position in ITF Taekwon-Do is most often not a stationary position. While the so-called “end-positions”—i.e. the impact points—where the attacking or blocking tool hits its target could be described as a stationary, momentary “frozen” point, and is therefore very easy to photograph and describe, the default position (the intermediate positions) in ITF Taekwon-Do are dynamic positions. The significance of this cannot be overemphasized! At the same time, I should not be misunderstood to mean that they cannot and do not, at times function as stationary positions. The fact that we practise our “default” or “neutral” or “chamber”—or whatever you wish to call it—position usually as a dynamic, transitory position, does not negate the fact that we often enough also come to rest in this position. As I have mentioned before, the intermediate position “is the actual, authentic end position, it also becomes the authentic starting position for the next technique” and we do at times stop our motion here. Many practitioners use the forwards offensive relaxed ready (intermediate) position not as an intermediate node, but as their default sparring stance, in the way a boxer or Muay Thai practitioner may use it. Similarly, I often find myself using the defensive relaxed ready position as my sparring stance.


1. The term “impact point” is potentially misleading as it could be thought that this point merely touches the surface of the target, when in fact the attacking tool or blocking tool is usually aimed beyond the surface. The true target is not the surface, but beyond the surface, so the impact point is a point that entails the penetration of the body. Other terms such as penetration point or breaking point could possibly have sufficed better, but “penetration” and “breaking” also have other connotative meanings and not all techniques are always used to penetrate or brake—some techniques push, pull, derail, etc. For now I will settle with “impact point” and refer to the point at which the attacking or blocking tool impacts with the true target (not merely the surface of the body). Taekwon-Do students are usually taught that the actual target is about two inches beyond the surface.

2. I call Taekkyeon the “mother” of ITF Taekwon-Do, while Shotokan Karate is its “father.” See more here.


Ymar Sakar said...

It's times like these that I'm grateful that I didn't learn stances in this fashion. I learned them in a more intuitive fashion based on whether things felt or looked right/wrong.

To do X, I needed Y stance or a group of Y stances.

On vital points, what I learned is that there are a few which I really do need to defend and what most people consider "damaging" punches aren't something that will affect those with high pain thresholds. And coincidentally... the centerline defends most of them if you can hold it. It helps me prioritize targets for attack/defense. Carves out a few more seconds.

Stuart said...

Very nice article.
I always refer to the intermediate positions as "returning to neutral" to emphasise the relaxed and ready nature of the positions, and the fact that you can suddenly switch to a different technique, pivot or change direction - prepared but not committed.

For the initial move in Chon Ji, I take the more direct drop step path, as I would for a for forward walking stance punch from the same position. In this I am treating the parallel stance itself as a general intermediate stance, it is a ready stance after all.
Also you can't practice this type of high-to-low drop step from most intermediate stances.

I haven't given any thought to doing it your way before however, it does make sense and is more in line with the general performance of the form. food for thought alright...

SooShimKwan said...


I'm actually thankful for having learned traditional stances. When I started doing Hapkido where there are not fixed stances I found that my footwork was much more stable than most of my beginning peers. I had a better sense of weight placement and movement, I think.

On the other hand, I enjoy the intuitive learning methods too, as found in styles like Systema.

SooShimKwan said...


Glad you like it. Cheers!

Yes, falling from the parallel stance into the walking stance is strategically more sound, I think. However, I tend to teach it the other way at this level because it emphasizes relaxation from the very start. To "relax" is therefore the very first thing a student would learn in the formal patterns and I have found that relaxation is often one of the most difficult things to teach. In fact, I find myself still at times being too tense!

On the other hand, where other people sometimes do the intermediate positions elsewhere in patterns, I often omit them to fall directly into a drop-step. I'm thinking, for instance, of the first movements in Hwa-Rang and Gae-Baek.

Ymar Sakar said...

I've found that Taiji stepping has allowed me to control my body weight via my leg ratios a lot better. Fine tuning. The concept of yang and yin, allowing one leg to push and the other leg to 100% receive the force with full relaxation, was very important I think in giving me the tools to transfer momentum without the leg muscles interrupting the flow. It used similar movements to how I projected force along my arm, relaxed shoulders sunk down, in a hand strike. Yet it was using the larger muscles on the leg for a different application.

Dan Djurdjevic said...

I like the article.

One small point: the xingyi posture you showed as an intermediate defensive posture is, I believe, nearly the finish of the attacking posture known as "heng quan" (crossing fist).

The essence of xingyi is to use a backward weighted stance in attack. I know that sounds odd, but it has to do with the drop step and the back leg shuffling up. This is part of what makes the internal arts so hard to describe. Our previous discussions on stepping are apposite.

The back weighted stance (san ti or what I ca call "zhan bu") is an intrinsic part of xingyi's complex, scientific approach to attack in a civilian defence context. It allows immediate withdraw for defence (which you noted) - ie. it is conservative and avoids over-committment - while the way you enter it still lets you use the full forward momentum of your body to add maximum force behind your blow.

Crossing fist (heng quan) is the fifth (and hardest to perform) of the 5 elements.

Dan Djurdjevic said...

Correction: another look at the photo reveals that it is in fact the finished posture of heng quan. My style has the lower hand higher, but otherwise it is identical.

SooShimKwan said...

Hi Dan,

Yes, the Xingyi photo is showing the end of an attack, but of course this is also the default position from where another step will commence. In other words, the end position and the start position are for all practical purposes the same.

That is the point I tried to make with the intermediate positions in ITF Taekwon-Do. Although they occur "intermediately", they are actually the authentic ending positions and starting positions for Taekwon-Do techniques. What is usually considered (especially by beginners) as the end-positions are not so, and neither are these "end-positions" the "start-positions".

SooShimKwan said...


What you mention about the Tai-Chi stepping is part of what, I believe, the sine wave motion in the ITF forms attempt to teach. But I'll write more about that in a future post.

Ymar Sakar said...

Sanko, I was wondering what you thought about the difference or similarity between students who have a habit of posing at the end of a technique vs the student that is using zen techniques of awareness/kinesthetics at the end of a technique.

To most observers, it would look the same. And while some people offer advice as to how to do one or the other, I'm mostly interested in how people look at it from the outside in.

Dan Djurdjevic said...

Hi Sanko

As I noted on my blog, any resemblance between your still tkd picture and the xingyi heng quan is actually misleading:

The two movements that lead to these "postures" and the roles those "postures" play are totally different.

For one thing, the tkd "posture" is definitely "intermediate". The xingyi one is definitely "at rest". It is one of xingyi's "stop points'. It is actually only in the most basic context that one might follow this with another heng quan. In any event, it is a distinct "stop" in any xingyi sequence and is accordingly not transitional.

Otherwise I refer you to my comments on my blog regarding postures and dimensional analysis.

All the best!


Dan Djurdjevic said...

I should have made it clear that by postures, I am of course including the "interim positions" that you have noted in your blog.

Don't get me wrong: I think it is admirable to examine transitory points, and I think all stances amount to such things. Accordingly you will note my general approval of your article, which is very well set out and researched (even if I made the point about the heng quan!).

However I just can't see how such an analysis of such points supports sine wave theory; as I have argued, if you look at the exact mid point of a sine wave step (surely a pivotal transitional position), the practitioner is in a highly compromised position that evidences a "loading up" during "dead time". For me that is the most salient issue - and a determinative one for any dynamic context.

I understand your point that sine wave does not occur everywhere, however for me the issue remains: why have it in patterns. I await your future article, but for me, it seems to be grooving habits that are counterproductive to any other dynamic context. Learning to coordinate your strike with a downward or upward moment does not require such an ineffient stepping method.

SooShimKwan said...

"difference or similarity between students who have a habit of posing at the end of a technique vs the student that is using zen techniques of awareness"

Imar, honestly I'm not sure if ITF practitioners are concerned with Zen awareness much. General Choi Hong-Hi actually seemed to have guided the style away from (Zen) Buddhist meditation. He wrote, for instance, that "Unlike in Buddhism or Zen, mediation in Taekwon-Do does not mean a total divorce from the world, like a dead body, but rather an active moment to reflect on our past mistakes in silence and in the privacy of our thoughts, and through penitence, to continue our self-improvement toward becoming better men or women." For this reason, I doubt many practitioners have Zen ambitions when doing the "posing at the end of a technique".

SooShimKwan said...

"Learning to coordinate your strike with a downward or upward moment does not require such an ineffient stepping method."


This is a valid point if the patterns were only concerned with teaching the most efficient way of moving from A to B. For efficient (fast, linear) moving I think one has to look elsewhere in the Taekwon-Do pedagogy.

I believe there are reasons for what the patterns are doing -- reasons I hope to address some other time. However, let's assume that the patterns really contribute no value as far as practical movement is concerned, then why do this? In part, patriotism. If for no other (practical) reason, it is shifting the movement towards a more authentically Korean way of moving (see the Taekkyeon video), than a Japanese way.

Taekkyeon demonstration: http://youtu.be/5jlV5az7rHY

However, even if the consideration is a patriotic (anti-Japanese) one, it is functional for Taekwon-Do. Taekkyeon has a certain light-footedness, an elastic agility that Karate lacks. This "bounciness" (whether or not you agree with its value in the melee range) works well for Taekwon-Do's kicking arsenal. (And it should not be missed that the melee range is somewhat different for Taekwon-Do. We practise fighting at a further defensive range than most other martial arts, but that is another topic for another thread.)


Dan Djurdjevic said...

I have a great deal of time for the taekkyeon methodology; to me it is both authentically Korean and, most importantly, effective.

It stresses a light, ball of foot stepping (sometimes akin to Motobu Udundi). This is especially useful when it sets the practitioner up for ballistic motions like jumps and kicks (a taekkyeon mainstay).

The footwork contains a "rocking" motion that transfers weight from one foot to the other and back. This is not dissimilar to taijiquan is some respects, except there is also a "bounce" added as a ballistic primer. I note that those steps where ballistic priming is unnecessary do not have the "bounce" aspect.

In simple terms, taekkyeon's "bouncing" is contextually appropriate and hence while it might look "dance-like" it doesn't look daft to my eye (not by any stretch). This contrasts with that Po eun performance to which I have previously alluded.

I think the problem with sine wave theory as it manifests today in some ITF schools is that it takes the "bouncing" of taekkyeon out of its light-footed context and tries to apply it between the comparatively "flat-footed" stepping of the karate platform on which taekwondo is quite clearly built. This makes the patterns "ma-ma, hu-hu" to borrow a phrase from my teacher - ie. neither horse nor tiger (neither fish nor fowl).

If you wanted taekwondo to accomodate the taekkyeon footwork, I would think it necessary to redesign, from the ground up, the taekwondo patterns which are (to my eye) clearly "karate-like" in origin, including "Chon ji", "Yul gok" and "Po eun" among others. This would involve completely replacing the platform with a footwork (and softness) exclusively of the kind seen in, say, the taekkyeon form Shippal soo. But if you did that, why not just do taekkyeon?

I've had the same experience comparing my karate with my internal arts; it is easy to want to make the karate "more internal" once you've seen the usefulness of the principles of those arts. But to do so misses the point of why and how karate works and what its strengths are.

Don't get me wrong: I quite like "fusion". I'll shortly do some articles about my attempted fusion of karate and the internal arts. But that is different from changing your base art entirely. To my mind this is what sine wave does: it pulls the rug out from under the "karate" platform. And in so doing, it does not leave behind a "taekkyeon-like" art.

So I think it is dangerous to make sweeping changes of the kind General Choi did when, (as far as I know) fairly late in his career, he introduced "sine wave" to the performance of ITF patterns. To my mind there was nothing wrong with them the way they were before sine wave (which is the way many continue to practice them today). Doing a bounce before the odd high kick or jump might be okay - but not with ordinary stepping and punching Chon ji style, and certainly not with every such step.

Dan Djurdjevic said...

As an aside, I'd like to thank you for what is, I think without doubt, the best exposition so far on sine wave. You might not be an "apologist" for it, but you have done far more to make me reconsider it in a favorable light than anyone else, and I look forward to your future articles. Who knows, I may yet become a believer (even if it is some modified sense)! Be well!


SooShimKwan said...

Hi Dan,

First some back paddling: It may come across in this post on intermediate positions that these positions are always and only done as transitory nodes intermediately, i.e. in between, techniques. If you came to this conclusion then I apologize, for while it is true, it is a half-truth. I wish to repeat what I said somewhere in the post: This (intermediate / chamber) position is "the actual, authentic end position, it also becomes the authentic starting position for the next technique". Sometimes we do actually stop here. And in fact, if we were not going to do any other technique, this is actually where we would stop.

I've augmented the final paragraph to hopefully make my message clearer.

SooShimKwan said...

"If you wanted taekwondo to accomodate the taekkyeon footwork, I would think it necessary to redesign, from the ground up, the taekwondo patterns which are (to my eye) clearly "karate-like" in origin"


You are completely right. I also think it would have been better to have redesigned the patterns from scratch again. Unfortunately it was too late. The Chang Hon forms (as they are known), have been accepted too widely and of course General Choi and other people were too emotionally invested in them. For him to have included the sine wave motion was already too radical for many people.

At the same time, I'm happy that these forms were not abandoned. Taekwon-Do is a hybrid of (mostly) Karate and Taekkyeon--the Karate-like platform on which the patterns is built is a reminder of the Karate heritage. One can easily dispose of the sine wave motion and get Karate type training. Or, you can do the sine wave motion, and get other types of training. It's an awkward business, but I like the option and I actually do train the patterns in different ways or extrapolate ideas using both linear Karate movements or wavy Taekkyeon movements. While I have grown exceedingly fond of the relaxed, soft style methodology that is now so prominent in the patterns, I do not for a moment forget the efficiency of the linear hard style movements either.

SooShimKwan said...

"I'd like to thank you for what is, I think without doubt, the best exposition so far on sine wave."

Dan, thank you very much for the compliment. I'm sure there are other people with a deeper understanding than myself; I just happen to write more online about it.

"You might not be an "apologist" for it, but you have done far more to make me reconsider it in a favorable light than anyone else"

I am happy to hear that. I mentioned somewhere that while I am not trying to convince anybody of the sine wave motion, I hope that with explaining it properly, I may create some appreciation for it.

"I may yet become a believer (even if it is some modified sense)!"

Haha! Dan, I think we are all doing it in some modified sense!

Ymar Sakar said...

Taekkyeon moves look much better. I can't explicitly state why, like Dan can, but it looks more time efficient. It also looks like Northern Shaolin cannon/long fist. Which is sort of like saying it came from Mongolia/Russia or from external Muslim influence. That Persian art by whatever name I forgot.

Oh yeah, a lot of cross pollination over the milleniums.

Modern TKD forms it around the kata foundation, based on forms, but uses Taekkyeon as a sort of visual goal or ideal, but lacking the Taekkyeon principles or Chinese internal art principles because this knowledge was lost due to either rarity, scarcity, or fatality. I believe the Japanese occupation purged many or most of the native Korean fighters out of existence, just like Mao did with the Chinese traditional arts. How could they build something using Taekkyon without understanding the internal principles and concepts? By copying the physical movements from an external perspective. Hence, you got TKD, built on karate foundations. Since the "external copying" works with external methods, and karate was definitely external by the time it got to Korea/Japan, things took on a life of their own.

Which is another reason why I don't like learning forms. Or at least, not karate kata based forms. Taiji Chuan forms are okay, because they're handled differently. So are forms in bojutsu or kenjutsu. Different.

IF ITF TKD practitioners are truly serious about bringing back the soft or internal precepts to their art, they will need to do quite a bit of research and experimentation. Most of the students can't do it, because the forms have made them shu students unable to break out into higher stages of mental progression. So the burden rests upon the later generations of TKD students, or rather older generations that will do R/D and create a training curriculum that can correctly inculcate such principles into the next generation of TKD students. They will have a tough job of it. After all, Chinese martial arts was refined over millenniums of people dying in war and personal duels. One was either 100% effective, meaning alive, or dead (ineffective). No such thing as "is my art effective..." that was like asking, back then, "am I still alive". Such ephemeral and solipsistic thinking was not well developed in a society on the verge of starvation (anti ennui). In order to make up for this advantage, one must utilize superior information gathering and analysis tools as well as the knowledge of the ancients.

SooShimKwan said...

Hi Ymar,

What counts in ITF's favour is that the main organizations have standing committees of senior instructors and masters that are dedicated to technical, educational research matters. In other words, there are people appointed to do relevant research. Some country's also have such functions -- for instance I'm on South Africa's research committee.

The negative thing, however, is that the ITF is not one unified body. There are at least three ITF governing bodies, and a number of other "ITF"-organization, and I'm sure that they do not have the same research foci.

A further problem is that since Grandmaster Choi Hong-Hi's death, these ITF factions all claim to be the authentic ITF and in there attempt to be orthodox, they may actually get stuck in the past, trying to look like "original Taekwon-Do" (whatever that is?!), instead of continuing the evolution of Taekwon-Do. I'm definitely not an advocate for complete reform, but neither do I support stagnation.

Ymar Sakar said...

I've heard some crazy things due to the political infighting amongst TKD factions. Backlisting of students. The inability to take things learned from elsewhere and integrate it with TKD or else one is banned. So on and so forth.

The political nature is inherently present in any large organization. But TKD takes it to extremes. In fact, Koreans take it to extremes. Japan only takes certain things to extremes, but usually it's something else.

ATA, American Taekwondo Association, founded by a Korean who immigrated to the US, has a horrible reputation as not only a McDojo but also an unethical martial arts practice in the US. And many people think that's because of American capitalism, when in fact, that's not the case. All the forms and teaching methods were directly learned and inherited from Korea one way or another, even if Korea inherited it from Japan.

China 1000 or so years ago had a very easy way to deal with TKD's problem. They split the factions into desparate family branches. Chen, Yang, Sun, Wu-Dang, etc are examples of more recent changes to Taiji Chuan. It's still Taiji, but now "Yang" or "Chen" family Taiji.

Thus they both completely separated the organization into teams that were doing their own ideas, but at the same time kept the style together under one name brand. But then one would expect a 3000-4000 year old region that were developing martial arts for that entire length of time, to be able to figure out what works for large organizations.

Wing Chun has a similar problem due to Ip Man's legacy teaching methods. Got worse when the 2008 movie came out.

Recently, I've seen some good fighters out of third or second world countries. I'm sure that's no coincidence. Dan also trained in a camp in South Africa, if I recall correctly. Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia are also big on such things and the skills they show in Wing Chun tournaments are far beyond Western standards I've witnessed. Well, with the exception of the Hawkings Cheung lineage.

The West right now, including America, is in a phase of "ennui": Decadent self-indulgent narcissism. People living on the edge of starvation and survival, think in very different terms during martial arts training.

In many ways, I'm in favor of changing tradition in traditional martial arts. But in some other things, I'm far more traditional and hardcore than what the TMA styles have been using in training these days in America.

SooShimKwan said...

I think we already have a case of such "family" styles in ITF. The three main factions have become to be known as ITF-Chang (Ung), ITF-Choi (Jung Hwa), and ITF-Trần (Triệu Quân): referring to the three presidents. (Grandmaster Tran passed away in the 2010 Haiti earthquake and was followed as president by Grandmaster Pablo Trajtenberg, but this ITF faction is still commonly referred to as ITF-Tran.)

All three of these ITFs have started to make some changes to the style (e.g. different rules, etc.), so that they are slowly starting to evolve in slightly different directions. Eventually, I believe, the ITFs will be as different from each other as the different Tai Chi "families". They will still be recognizably ITF, but different nonetheless.

I wrote about it here:


Ymar Sakar said...

Different is good, so long as they don't try to push out the competition. That's a sign of insecurity, especially in these modern days.

But for a student, this kind of splintering is probably almost fatal to their learning process. Same with how karate devolved into so many styles, yet the Okinawan karate teachers a century ago always saw the way of the open hand as one thing. One goal. Any tool that can be used to achieve that goal is thus kara te.

Now a days, not so much